The environmental organization, Basel Action Network (BAN), well known for discovering the global dumping of electronic waste in Asia, has joined forces with CBS News in California to expose a new type of dumping, this time in Arizona. BAN found three warehouses in Yuma, Arizona, holding what is believed to be more than 9 million pounds of abandoned toxic picture tubes from old TVs and computer monitors originally collected by the California state Recycling Program. Dow Management, the alleged recycling company that held the glass in Yuma, has disappeared and the principals are nowhere to be found. Dow was paid more than $581,000 by California Recyclers to take the glass, who were in turn paid $3.6 million from a California legislated recycling fund.
"Dow Management has bilked California consumers of at least half a million dollars," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of BAN. "And what is truly amazing is that we have seen no evidence of the Federal Government, nor the States of Arizona or California conducting any effort to prosecute the perpetrators.”
Dow was said to be owned by a Chinese national. The EPA permit ID for the company was filled out in the name of Veronica Yuen of Monterey Park, California. But none of those holding the warehouse leases nor listed holding leases can now be located. The State of California has however ordered the California recyclers that shipped the cathode ray tube (CRT) glass to Arizona, to take it away at their own expense and send to a legitimate processor. California recyclers that shipped to Dow include:
- KYO Computer Inc, Newark, CA
- eWaste Center Inc, Commerce, CA, Tukwilla, WA
- Attan Recycling Corporation, Chino, CA
- All e-Waste Inc, Sun Valley, CA
- Global Surplus Solutions Inc., San Bernardino, CA
Under California law, consumers must pay an "Advanced Recovery Fee" every time they buy a new TV or computer display. That fee is then paid to designated recyclers to have the material properly processed. Under federal law it is illegal to speculatively accumulate CRT glass for recycling for longer than one year. In this case neither the California law nor the federal law were followed. The laws are important because CRT glass is covered with toxic cadmium compound laden phosphors and in the glass itself is laden with the toxic metal lead. CRT glass is considered under international law to be a hazardous waste.
In this case, regulators failed to enforce the rules, or properly monitor the situation as the California CRT glass was shipped to Dow, a company claiming to be a legitimate recycler, which in fact did little processing and simply took the money and stockpiled the material. KYO Computers, in Northern California, for example, collected 39 cents a pound from the State of California and then paid Dow in Arizona 6.25 cents a pound to accept its glass. Due to the heavy weight of the glass, the amounts of money involved was surprising large.
"Dow was holding the glass for longer than one year and yet neither the State of Arizona, nor the Federal EPA was bothering to enforce the rule against stockpiling," said Puckett. "When regulators don't regulate and prosecutors don't prosecute, people get hurt and criminals rule the roost.”
CRT abandonment has become a national story with similar incidents now reported in Baltimore and Denver. BAN has created a Certification program for responsible Recyclers called e-Stewards for consumers wishing to ensure responsible management of electronic waste (see www.e-Stewards.org).